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This is a worked case study and is intended as a supplement to the related question Finding Devon parish marriage records?.

There are two different websites which offer help with determining the location of the Anglican church where a marriage took place by entering the GRO index reference.

Surname Society Church Marriage Finder

The Surname Society offers a Church Marriage Finder -- about their databse, the site says:

The database contains details of marriages between 1837 and 1911 and is not yet complete.

We currently have data from the following registration districts: Bermondsey, Bishopsgate, Bloomsbury, Braintree, Camberwell, Chelsea, Clerkenwell, Colchester, East London, Farringdon, Fulham, Holborn, Islington, Lambeth, Marylebone, Medway, Newington, North Aylesford, Poole, Poplar, Southwark, St George Southwark, St Giles, St Luke, St Saviour, Strood, West Ham, West London, Westminster, Westminster St Margaret, Witham.

GOONS' Marriage Locator

The Guild of One-Name Studies (GOONS) has a Marriage Locator Database which also allows you to enter the GRO index and deduce where the marriage took place. However, their website cautions:

The Marriage-Locator Database currently contains 613,844 marriage-locator > points (of which 327,679 are 'cardinal points') in 1,336 Registration Districts.

This is still a work in progress, and not all the data needed for all marriages is yet available. New data is continually being added.

Their statement of Marriage Locator - the principles explains how the locator works -- it is similar to the process described in What "hidden" clues are there in the GRO Indexes of births and deaths?

The marriage I want to know more about is an 1878 registration for Hannah Knowles. The marriage was registered in Kingsbridge (Devon) Registration District, Vol 5b Page 328. Ancestry lists the following people for that page:

Name
James Bickford
Edward Edwards
Hannah Knowles
Elizabeth Stone 

The Surname Society's Finder is not going to help because the database does not have entries from the Kingsbridge RD. When I entered the GRO Reference into the GOONS Marriage Locator, I got the following message:

Marriage Locator Search Results

GRO Index: 1878 quarter 1, volume 5b, page 328:

Sorry, we cannot locate the church for this marriage. The entry is located between entries for Stokenham (RD: Kingsbridge) and Newton Ferrers (RD: Plympton).

Their principles page explains how the volunteers build up the database:

For each of the churches within that RD, they take the following steps:

  • First, identifying the earliest marriage in a quarter for a church, and noting down the names of the bride and groom.

  • Doing the same for the last marriage in the quarter.

  • Finally, using an online service, or FreeBMD, to find the page numbers where those two marriages have been indexed. These two page numbers, representing the first and last marriages in a quarter, are what have been termed the "Cardinal Points" for that church.

The widow Hannah Knowles that I am looking for is associated with Aveton Gifford. I have access to images to the parish register via DevonFHS. Can I use this information to cross-check the GOONS marriage locator, to see whether they have already established the "Cardinal Points" for that register?

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The expected page range for March quarter 1878 marriages in Kingsbridge Registration District is: 313-329.

Anglican marriages are organized alphabetically by name of parish, then at the end are the nonconformist and register office marriages. Given your marriage occurred on the second to last page (328), I'd be willing to put money on the fact that they married in a nonconformist chapel or register office. Unfortunately if this is the case, there is no way of finding details of the marriage other than searching all of the nonconformist registers (which are probably not online) or ordering the certificate.

An easy way to confirm they are in the nonconformist/register office section of the GRO registers is to find what pages any marriages that occurred in parishes near the end of the alphabet (e.g. West Alvington or Woodleigh). You can use either the parish registers, newspapers, censuses, etc to determine on which pages marriages in these parishes likely occurred. I don't have time to do this right now for your example but may when I have time.

  • Hi, I was about to write a self-answer but I realized I was supposed to take a webinar. Your approach of working out the parishes at the end of the alphabet makes more sense, so I'll use the images from one of the parishes starting with Z at DevonFHS as part of my answer. Thanks for catching my typo, too. – Jan Murphy Apr 27 '17 at 0:29
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UKBMD has pages which list the names of places within a registration district -- the page for Kingsbridge shows the following civil parishes later in the alphabet than Stokenham:

  • Strete
  • Thurlestone
  • West Alvington
  • Woodleigh

Ancestry's list of Ecclesiastical parishes for Kingsbridge RD (derived from The Phillimore Atlas and Index of Parish Registers) lists these parishes after Stokenham:

  • Thurlestone
  • West Alvington
  • Woodleigh

DevonFHS has scanned registers for Woodleigh available in the members area of their website -- for the period of 1878, they have banns. The last entry (no 88) of page 18 in the register is for banns read in February / March of 1875. The top of page 19, entry 89, is for banns read in November 1879. Unless this register is a copy of an older register, it seems that there are no pages missing.

Devon Parish registers at findmypast

findmypast's Devon parish records coverage

They list:

  • Thurlestone banns 1755-1915
  • Thurlestone marriages 1558-1915
  • West Alvington banns 1769-1915
  • West Alvington marriages 1559-1915
  • Woodleigh marriages 1757-1836 (not in the range I need for this question)

I'll look through Thurlestone and West Alvington to see if I can see any marriages and determine what the corresponding GRO range is. I'll also check the Non-Conformist records which are online, newspapers, etc. to see if I can find more information about the couples I'm looking for.

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